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Why are Obamacare supporters attacking job creators?

When seemingly organized Obamacare supporters attack small business leaders who express concern about the health-care law, job creators are no longer just uncertain about how their business will be impacted by the law. They are afraid – for their businesses and to speak out.

By Bernie MarcusOp-ed contributor / May 16, 2013

Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta May 29, 2003. Mr. Marcus writes in an op-ed here: 'Small businesses are affected by the health-care law’s mandates, but small businesses – especially restaurants – have less maneuverability to pay for them.'

Ric Feld/AP/File

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Palm Beach, Fla.

On a Monday morning in March, small business owner Mike Ruffer told a group at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C, how his eight Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchise restaurants in North Carolina were faring under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Five hours later, the backlash was so intense he had to wonder if that 15-minute speech might kill his company.

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In fact, Mr. Ruffer is the most recent victim in a troubling pattern of seemingly orchestrated campaigns to silence small business owners who speak out about President Obama’s agenda. CEOs have told me they see disturbing parallels in the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Justice scandals, where the administration pursued political opponents and the press. And, quite frankly, these business owners are afraid.

Ruffer is in the same tough spot most job creators are today: stuck in the limbo of uncertainty about the future of Obamacare. He told the audience in Washington on that Monday morning that Mr. Obama’s health-care reform was so expensive he had to cancel expansion plans and may raise burger prices.

Like many in his business, Ruffer set up his restaurants as separate corporations a decade ago. As Obamacare emerged, he was not concerned because none of his companies had enough employees to suffer the mandate that all employers of a certain size provide health insurance to their employees.

When more details were revealed, he found out his multiple corporations did not protect him at all. Today Ruffer believes the costs of health-care reform will eat the entire profits of one of his restaurants. Just like his peers, he is uncertain about imminent costs and requirements under Obamacare and cannot plan accordingly.

All businesses are affected by the health-care law’s mandates, but small businesses – especially restaurants – have less maneuverability to pay for them. As Ruffer told his audience, passing the cost to customers risks pricing his products beyond perceived value. As a result, he would have to cut his expenses: employees, investments in new locations, and more.

When Ruffer’s comments hit the Internet, calls and emails from Obamacare supporters rained into executives at Five Guys headquarters – Ruffer’s bosses. Social media started to turn against the popular brand, and progressive bloggers filed the first wave of negative stories.

Within hours, corporate headquarters was distancing themselves from their North Carolina business partner, stating that his views did not reflect the corporate position. Ruffer stopped answering his telephone; emails went unanswered. The business he had built after retiring was suddenly in danger. He probably wondered why he opened his big mouth – and he’s not alone.

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